Google Launches Free Hosting Service

Google has launched a beta version of a free hosting service, Google Page Creator. The service, which is currently limited to existing users of Google's Gmail, allows users to build a web page using a web-based interface. Each site has its own subdomain, with a web address using the structure of http://gmailname.googlepages.com, and users can choose among up to 40 page designs.

The introduction of Google Page Creator follows the recent launch of free hosting products by Microsoft and Go Daddy. Google is already a major player in the free hosting sector with Blogger, while Yahoo has several free hosting products, including its GeoCities brand. While several of these services are designed to generate revenue from advertising, Google's Page Creator beta doesn't include advertising on either its public pages or administrative interface.

The new service also differs from Blogger, which offers easily updated weblogs with RSS feeds for easy syndication in newsreaders and web aggregators. Page Creator uses an Ajax-based application to build static pages, which will be crawled by Google within a few hours of publication, but receive no preferential treatment in Google search results, according to the service's FAQ. Google Page Creator doesn't currently offer the ability to add domain names to the accounts (as opposed to a googlepages.com URL), but hinted that it may introduce domain support in the future. Each account offers up to 100 megabytes of web space, and requires Internet Explorer 6.0 or Firefox 1.0 or higher, with JavaScript and cookies enabled.

The prospect of a Google free hosting service has been a source of concern for some in the web hosting industry, who worry that Google's strong brand identity might drain off potential prospects. In recent months major hosting providers have raised the specs on their cheapest shared hosting accounts, offering up to 5 gigs of web space and 250 gigs of monthly data transfer.

The early hours of the beta raised privacy concerns about the use of the publisher's gmail address in the URL, which could provide spammers with a way to harvest Gmail logins.